3648. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 7 March 1821

3648. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 7 March 1821⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I inclose to you my letter of thanks to the Secretary of the Cymmrodorion. [1]  This is an honour for which I have to thank you. Had it come a little sooner xx it should have appeared in the title page to the Vision, [2]  – which I hope by this time will have been duly delivered at your door.

I am by no means agreeably employed at this time, in preparing an ode the performance of which his M. means to command on the Birth Day. [3]  – I shall keep out of the newspapers if possible, & do the best I can by following on Wartons [4]  path, tho certainly non passibus aquis [5]  for he did these things con amore, [6]  – excellently well. However history & antiquity & romance will always supply materials for a respectable composition; – & for the New Year, public events & political aspects will afford matter of a different kind.

Tomorrow will finish my task. It is not a pleasant thing to feel that thirty years ago I could have written it in fewer minutes than it will now take hours.

I wish the Russian Ambassador had complained of Ld Hollands speech, & compelled Ministers to prosecute the newspapers for publishing it. [7]  I believe no check would be so effectual as that of prosecuting the libels which are spoken in the house merely for the effect which they will produce when printed

This is the right time for following up the Catholic claims. If the people of England do not object to <have espoused the cause of> Queen Caroline, they ought <may be expected> to embrace the Whore of Babylon with open arms. [8] 

God bless you

Yrs affectionately


7 March. 1821


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Wynn had a central role in re-founding the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion in 1820 as a society of London-based Welshmen interested in the history of Wales. Southey had been elected a member of the Society. The Secretary was James Evans (dates unknown). BACK

[2] A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[3] Southey had been informed that, as Poet Laureate, he would have to write an annual Birthday Ode, as well as a New Year’s Ode. George IV chose to celebrate his ‘official’ birthday on St George’s Day (23 April), unless it fell on a Sunday, in which case it would be celebrated on 24 April. Southey composed the ‘Ode for St George’s Day’, unpublished until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 258–262; it was not performed in 1821. BACK

[4] Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), Poet Laureate 1785–1790. BACK

[5] ‘though not with equal steps’. BACK

[6] ‘for love’. BACK

[7] In a debate in the House of Lords on 19 February 1821, Lord Holland had referred to Alexander I (1777–1825; Tsar of Russia 1801–1825) as ‘a prince who ascended a throne still reeking with the blood of his father’. Whether Alexander I was complicit in the assassination of his father, Paul I (1754–1801; Tsar of Russia 1796–1801), has been much debated; there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that he at least knew of the conspiracy, and it was far from unusual for a member of the Romanov dynasty to gain the throne by murdering his predecessor. Prince Christopher Henry von Lieven (1774–1839) was Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1812–1834. BACK

[8] Under extreme pressure from George IV, the Cabinet had reluctantly agreed to introduce a Bill of Pains and Penalties into the House of Lords to deprive the King’s wife, Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), of the title of Queen and to dissolve her marriage to the King. On the Third Reading of the Bill on 10 November 1820, the government majority was only nine votes and it seemed very unlikely the Bill could pass the House of Commons. Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, therefore announced the Bill would be withdrawn. The Whore of Babylon is mentioned in Revelation 17–18, and was identified by Protestant theologians with the Catholic Church. BACK

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